by Morgan McCarthy

5 stars

It’s been a long time since I finished a book in 3 days, certainly not a book as literary as this, with the thinnest of plots, but I found The Other Half of Me absolutely enthralling: at times, almost impossible to put down. Not a great deal happens in The Other Half of Me, the plot is slight, but beautifully detailed and wonderfully told.
Brother and sister, Jonathan and Theo, grow up at Evendon, a lovely house by the sea, where money is abundant but love is absent. Their father is missing and presumed dead. Their mother is just a vague presence who floats through life with a drink in her hand. The locals and the household staff despise them. They have no friends, only each other.
Everything changes when their mother is hospitalised and their grandmother Eve arrives to take over the care of the house and the children. Eve Anthony is famous, glamorous, extremely rich. As the children grown up, the passage of their lives is made easy and smooth by their grandmother’s money and seemingly endless list of influential contacts. Jon and Theo’s future should be rosy, but of course, it isn’t. Too many secrets, too many lies: it soon gradually becomes clear to Jonathan why his mother and her brother hate Eve. Theo, unable to hate, is slowly tipped into madness. From the start, you sense that she is doomed.
Eve admires Jonathan as a chip off her block, but is constantly exasperated by Theo – as was I. I’m sure we were meant to adore her as Jonathan does; to be charmed by her kind naïveté and helpless absent-mindedness, but I’ve known too many Theos and I couldn’t love her; she is silly and childish and extremely annoying. I frequently wanted to slap her. Poor Jonathan constantly angsts – has he been unkind to Theo by asking her to grow up and take responsibility for her own life? I doubt if I could have been half so patient as Jonathan – or even Eve. Theo strikes me as someone who should be institutionalised for her own good and everyone else’s sanity.
My irritation with Theo didn’t spoil my enjoyment of the book – far from it, she was the spice of it, Jonathan and Eve alone would have been too solid a dish for my taste. And, as I seem to keep saying, not a great deal happens in TOH, but the tragic progress is deliciously compelling and the writing is gorgeous – poetic, but lightly done: only just short of perfect. I couldn’t put the book down but dreaded its end. It’s been a long, long time I was so absolutely absorbed in the world of a book as I was with Jonathan and Theo, Eve and Evendon.